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Correspondence in January 2014

Doing being
Is it possible that a two letter word can make any difference? There has been a movement in recent times which has been rekindling an interest in the church and more specifically finding new ways to express that life in a modern world. This has found expression in alternative gatherings or missional communities. When this is discussed the phrase 'do church' or 'doing church' is used, but does the word do mean anything? Is it in anyway significant that we talk of doing church rather than being church?

Surely this talk should be of being church not doing. When we come to Christ we are his and we are brought into His church. We can recall the words of 1 Peter 2v9-10 where we read 'we are', this is about being not doing. We are called in Christ to be the church where we are. That means we are to be the church in our communities.

These two small words do make a difference. At best it is poor grammar. How can we do what we are, doing being? We can be the church well or be the church poorly, but at the end we can no more do church than we can do human.

But at its worst it brings to the church the consumer ideology. If we can do church it becomes a matter of choice, if I choose not to I can leave any area of the churches life or even walk away completely because I can do church my way. To talk of doing church is to put the emphasis on me rather than on Christ and His work to binds us together. It becomes my choice, my decision, my interests, rather than discerning what it means to be part of the church and working at the practical reality of being united through Christ.

With this comes a great encouragement. We belong to and are part of the church, not by our own merit or what we can bring and do, but because we a chosen and loved. Being part of the church is part of the act of grace. We are loved, special and chosen not as just individuals but as the body of Christ that we entered with the price of His sacrifice.

If being brings encouragement it also brings a challenge. That is not only in our commitment to the church but our commitment to the unity of the church. To be the church where God has placed us is not easy and as our faith takes perseverance so does our commitment to the church. So lets commit to being the Church God wants us to be.
Stephen Goddard
Chichester Baptist Church

What has happened to the Christian tradition of non-violent action?

A retired CofE vicar in Bristol recently wrote in the local paper about the unacceptable divide between the richest and poorest parts of the city. He makes the usual points about the main causes - low wages, the bedroom tax, benefit cuts etc. Yet when he addresses what his solution to all this is, he meekly proclaims that we should all try to live more simply.

Now I'm sure most Christians, and indeed many non Christians, would heartily concur with this (where they are not already doing so out of poverty!) but can we as Christians continue to simply carry on just dealing with symptoms or tinkering at the margins? Is it enough to just offer foodbanks, more debt advice centres, more conferences on poverty, or indeed yet more verbal criticisms of political policy but in reality do nothing which may disturb the status quo seriously?

When was the last time the churches took part officially en masse in an anti-austerity demonstration? Where is the moral and practical support for workers striking for better wages or defending their conditions of work? Where are we defending families against bedroom tax related evictions, standing shoulder to shoulder with them in court or against the bailiffs?

In short what has happened to the tradition of non-violent direct action when all else has clearly failed to move those who hold power? We have left the field of action almost entirely to the far left who at least have the courage to try and defend those who are suffering most. Where are the modern day Ghandis and Mandelas in our churches?
Wayne Coombes

Re: Facing redundancy - but the call hasn't gone

Why do the Baptist Ministers thing? If you are called then stay. Stay and do whatever you have to do to make the call of God a reality. If you have to get a job and volunteer your time to the church until circumstances change. I am sure you are aware Paul made tents to fund the call of God on his life. Bless you for having the heart and conviction to follow God's call on your life into not so glamorous area but if you leave now how will it ever change. Some areas are still facing Exile, buck the trend.
Allan Finnegan

While I obviously can't (and wouldn't) disagree with Allan's comment, I am saddened if this is the really only way forward that is open for Michael.
It strikes me that we have got into a situation (a) where larger churches in more prosperous areas often have few links with those in less salubrious places and are, in some cases, multiplying their own staff; (b) where small churches are regarded as "failures" or are "not being blessed by God" and thus ignored (how demeaning such talk is!). This means that people like Michael will, at best, have to do ministry in their "spare time" when the situation calls for the full-time involvement of more than one person.

I accept that many larger churches contribute generously to Home Mission; I also know that they tend to receive many demands for help and money, many of them deserving. Nevertheless I am disheartened that the churches in the Plymouth area do not see their way to aiding what sounds to be a crucial mission opportunity. For if they do not rally round their Baptist brothers and sisters, who will?
Andrew Kleissner

Re: What kind of ministers do we need?

My first response to this is an instinctive dislike of the expression "ministerial formation," used to refer to the formal process of preparing someone to be a minister. Whatever happened to "training?" After all, we're happy to talk about "ministers in training" when they're out in their church placements, so why not in college??Whatever else is happening in our colleges, people certainly AREN'T being "formed!" That's a lifelong process, done by the Holy Spirit with the co-operation of the individual, not done by a college "to" an individual.?

As for "What kind of ministers do we need" etc, the question assumes that there's a fixed Job Description for "Minister," which is different from that of "Church Member." Increasingly, that won't be the case (if it ever truly was).?I suspect that, with pension and other employment issues, we're approaching a time when large churches will still have teams of ministers, but even those of between 40 & 100 members will increasingly rely on the bi-vocational model - people with a variety of gifts earning a living in the secular world, but giving what time they can to the local church's life and mission.?

Many of those with less than about 40 might revert to a much more informal way of being church, since they won't have the skills or resources to cope with the increasing bureaucracy of "charity law."?If all this sounds depressing and defeatist, I see it quite the opposite way.

Jesus gives us no indication that He ever intended to found an "organisation." He talks about relationships, not rules and structures. As the 21st Century unfolds, we may find it presents us with a wonderful opportunity to recapture what "church" REALLY meant, to Jesus and His first followers, shorn of all the administration, management and empire-building which even Baptists have bogged it down with!?
Tony Jones

Re: Authentic words to last a lifetime

As a small, shy, less than able child I was ecouraged and nurtured by my wonderful Girls Brigade leaders and years later was able to repay one of them by being her constant visitor in her later years. I grew so much through their love and kindness. They allowed me to try so much I was not really up to standard with physically but they never stopped me and always praised my attempts. I owe them my determination
Joan Thomas (via Facebook)

I loved the Girls’ Brigade. Unfortunately by the time my own girls were ready to go to it we didn't have a company in our church. They went to rainbows brownies and guides which they benefited from. I think it is important we do encourage these organisations.
Patricia Hutchison (via Facebook)
Lent and veggie month
As I'm sure you are aware, Lent begins in early March this year. For many Christians this is a time of fasting and abstinence that traditionally included not eating meat. Coincidentally, March is also National Veggie Month and this year Animal Aid is urging people to take part in the Big Veg Pledge, a project where people promise to go meat-free for the whole of March whilst receiving all the help, support and information they need to do so.
If any of your readers would like to revive the Christian tradition of abstaining from meat during Lent, and save the lives of animals by doing so, they may wish to sign up for the Big Veg Pledge at www.veggiemonth.com or by calling 01732 364546 ext 227.
Ben Martin, Animal Aid,
Tonbridge, Kent


Re: Distressed - but counting blessings

Gabriel, praise God for the candour with which you have written this article. Can I suggest you download/purchase a powerful little book called 'WORDS' by Kenneth Hagin. I believe it will bless you and your family. I will be praying for you all. God bless you.
Sharon Jones

Lectio divina
I received a supply of the Baptists Together magazine for Spring 2014, and was reading it on the train on my journey to the mid-week meeting of the Baptist Church where I am one of the contacts. Transform 036, the Yellow Pages pull-out supplement, has some very valuable information.
However, given the lectio divina material in this article, there is absolutely no way that I can distribute this magazine to the general membership at my Church, unless I can first produce an article to include as a supplement, about the true nature of this type of "spirituality".
In my Church, we are trying to present a fully Bible-based message in our preaching. We are blessed in having a number of preachers who come and preach the Bible most faithfully. Sadly, the varieties of eastern mysticism, primarily hinduism, which leaven practices like lectio divina are an influence we do not need. There are many books, such as "Deceived On Purpose" by former new-ager Warren Smith, as well as articles available on the internet, which reveal some of the spiritual issues involved in my distrust of lectio divina and simlar practices.
Robert the engineer
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